fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Oregon Cabaret Theatre will go on

Family members of Jim Giancarlo are negotiating the sale of Oregon Cabaret Theatre in the wake of the artistic director's sudden death earlier this month.

“We are in the process of a transition,” said Giancarlo’s brother Paul Giancarlo, of Ashland. “The Cabaret is alive and well. The 2015 season is already in the works.”

Paul Giancarlo declined to give specifics of who might take the reins of OCT until plans had been finalized.

Jim Giancarlo, who co-founded OCT in 1986, had been in the process of selling the theater when he died unexpectedly at 3:45 a.m. Aug. 6 at Ashland Community Hospital. The cause of death was most likely a spontaneous aortic rupture, according to his brother.

“It was very sudden. Jim had no prior symptoms,” Paul Giancarlo said.

Jim Giancarlo fell ill the day before, while at the theater. He was transported by paramedics to the emergency room at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford. Tests found nothing unusual, and he returned to Ashland. Co-workers at OCT then drove him home and notified Paul Giancarlo, co-founder of the Ashland Food Project and a licensed clinical social worker in Ashland. Later that evening, when Jim still felt ill, Paul drove him to Ashland Community Hospital, where Jim died a few hours later.

Christopher George Patterson, who co-choreographed OCT's current show, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” with Giancarlo and performs in it, said OCT staff and the cast and stage crew were called in at 2 p.m. the day of Jim Giancarlo's death and told the grim news by General Manager Julie Gurwell, Resident Stage Manager Kathleen Mahoney and Patterson.

“It was a tough day for all of us,” Patterson said. “We decided that Jim would have wanted us to go on. Doing the show that evening was therapeutic.

“It was a full house. It was Jim’s last show and everyone knew it."

After the performance, staff, cast, crew and audience offered a toast to Giancarlo.

Gurwell said that Giancarlo had been thinking about selling OCT and retiring for five years and finally made the decision this year.

“He was looking forward to retirement,” Paul Giancarlo said.

Jim Giancarlo became the sole owner of OCT five years ago, with his co-founder, Craig Hudson, retaining ownership of the building. Giancarlo had been planning to retire at the end of 2014.

A public memorial is scheduled at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15, in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Bowmer Theatre. The memorial is scheduled on a day when theaters are traditionally dark to allow the theater community to attend. It will be held two days after what would have been Giancarlo’s 67th birthday,

The 2014 Oregon Cabaret Theatre season continues with “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” playing through Aug. 31; “Backwards in High Heels: The Ginger Musical” opens Sept. 12 and runs through Nov.  9; and “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” opens Nov. 21 and plays through Dec. 31, directed by Valerie Rachelle, who directed 2012's “Winter Wonderettes.” 

Paul Giancarlo said "Ain’t Misbehavin'," the last show his brother directed, "is one of the best shows he’s done.”

Paul Giancarlo said family members have been overwhelmed with the support they have received from the community.

“It’s been amazing and very touching,” he said. “We knew how special Jim was, but we are learning how special he was to this community. We are getting long letters from people we don’t know telling us about the impact Jim had on them.”

“I am so proud to be his brother.”

Jim Giancarlo is survived by Paul and three other siblings and their children. There will be a Southern Oregon University scholarship in Jim Giancarlo's name, but details aren't yet finalized, Gurwell said.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.


Jim Giancarlo performed in 'Riffin' and Tappin',' a 2010 production at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre.